The Author is Ms. Nishi Rathore of B.B.A.LLB. (Hons.), 3rd Year from School of Law, Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
The the term “Contempt of Court” in simple words can be explained as a willful disobedience of any judgment, order, direction, etc. of the Court. The Contempt of Court Act, 1971 is the legislation governing the acts relating to Contempt of Court.
According to the Act, Contempt of Court means civil contempt or criminal contempt [Section 2(b)] Since there is no concrete definition for the term contempt, the court has the power to decide whether the matter in question, scrutinizing the facts and circumstances, would offend the court's dignity and prestige or not and take actions accordingly.
Civil contempt as defined under Section 2(c) of the Act of 1971 is willful disobedience to any judgment, decree, direction, order, a writ or other processes of a Court or willful breach of an undertaking given to the court, while on the other hand, Criminal contempt which is defined under Section 2(d) is the publication of whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
· Scandalizes or tends to scandalize lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court.
· Prejudices interfere or tend to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding.
· Interferes or tends to interfere with, obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.
Section 12 of the Act of 1971 deals with the punishment for contempt of court. It states that a contempt of court may be punished with an imprisonment of not more than six months and or with fine of not more than two thousand rupees or with both. Along with The Contempt of Court Act, 1971 the Constitution of India, in Article 129 and Article 142(2) also talks about the Contempt of Court in different scenarios.
The limitation period to take any action for the Contempt has been enshrined under Section 20 of the Act of 1971. The period is of one year from the date on which the Contempt in question has been alleged to have been committed.
The Bar Council of India is the body which takes action in cases relating to Contempt of Court by a lawyer, but if the Court thinks fit, it can take disciplinary action against a lawyer by invoking its power of initiating contempt proceedings.
THE AMENDMENT OF 2006 IN THE CONTEMPT OF COURT, 1971
In the amendment of 2006 to the Contempt of Court, 1971 clearly states that if the Court thinks fit and is satisfied that the Contempt so made substantially interferes with the due course of Justice, and then only the The court may impose punishment for Contempt. Also, bona fide intention and truth were made defenses against the law of Contempt after the Amendment of 2006. This very amendment was made because the law was considered as a threat to the Fundamental Rights of personal liberty and Freedom of expression.
MID-DAY CASE: The Delhi High Court in 2007, employees of English tabloid MID-DAY were suspended for publishing a scandalous report against a retired Chief Justice of India. In this case, four journalists of tabloid city daily MID-DAY were found guilty of contempt of court as they had published articles against former Chief Justice of India Y.K. Sabharwal, which stated that the CJI had tarnished the image of Supreme Court. MID-DAY, in their defense, submitted that the said published report was true and that truth is a permissible defense in a Contempt of Court case. But the Delhi High Court did not follow the Amendment of 2006 and passed an order against the MID-DAY.
CASES RELATED TO CONCEPT OF COURT
Following are some of the famous cases related to Contempt of Court in India:
3.1. Case on Court’s Constitutional Right to punish for contempt
In the case of Bar Association v. Union of India, the Supreme Court looked into the powers vested in it by the Constitution on India under Article 129 read with Article 142(2) and in the High Court by Article 215 for the punishment of contempt. It was observed in this case that no parliament law can take away the inherent powers of the court which have been provided to it by the constitution, but such a legislature may guide the court for the determination of punishment which may be imposed by it in the cases of contempt. Similarly, in the case of Sudhakar Prasad v. Government of Andhra Pradesh and Others, it was observed that the provisions of The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 are in addition to the inherent powers of the court as enshrined under the Indian constitution.
3.2. Jurisdiction of the court to punish for contempt
In In the case of D.N. Taneja v. Bhajan Lal, it was held that the contemnor only has the right to appeal in the court of law and not the petitioner. It stated that when a person moves to the court for the case of contempt, he only can furnish the facts related to it, and once that is done he may assist the court but he cannot be a party to the case. Hence, there can only be two parties to a case i.e. the court and the contemnor itself.
3.3. Case of Advocate Mathews Nedumpara
The case of Advocate Mathews Nedumpara is one of the most famous cases related to Contempt of Court. The contempt order against Advocate Nedumpara was given during the hearing of a Writ Petition in the case of Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India through Secretary-General. While contending before the Hon'ble Court, where the bench comprised of Justice R.F. Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran, Advocate Nedumpara asserted that “Judges of the Court are wholly unfit to designate persons as Senior Advocates, as they only designate Judges' relatives as Senior Advocates.” Along with these words, he also took the name of Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman. When he was questioned as to the relevance of taking the name of such a Senior Advocate, he was unable to offer an adequate explanation to the court.
Considering the Father-Sonn relationship of Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman and Justice R.F. Nariman, the court stated that the name of Senior Advocate was taken to “browbeat” the Court. Also, the Court noticed that this was not the first time Advocate Nedumpara had made an attempt to “browbeat and insult” the Judges.
Hence, the bench of Justice R.F. Nariman and Justice Vineet Saran barred Advocate Nedumpara from practicing in the Supreme Court as an advocate for one year. Along with the suspension, the Court also sentenced him an imprisonment of three months. But the Advocate offered an unconditional apology, due to which the three months imprisonment was taken away.
Contempt takes the form of actions that are viewed as damaging to the court's ability to administer justice. Judges normally have a lot of tact in choosing whom to hold in contempt and the kind of contempt. Those held in contempt can incorporate parties to a proceeding, lawyers, witnesses, and attendants, individuals in or around a proceeding, and officials or staff of the court itself. Civil and criminal contempt are the two kinds of contempt of court. Civil contempt includes the disappointment of somebody to conform to a court direction. Judges use civil contempt sanctions to pressurize such an individual into conforming to a court order that the individual has violated. Criminal contempt charges are correctional, which means they serve to debilitate future demonstrations of contempt by punishing the wrongdoer regardless of what occurs in the core proceeding.
 Vitusah Oberoi and Others v. Court on its Motion, Criminal Appeals No. 1234 of 2007 with No. 1299 of 2007.
 Bar Association v. Union of India, (1998) 4 SCC 409.
 Sudhakar Prasad v. Government of Andhra Pradesh and Others, (2001) 1 SCC 516.
 D.N. Taneja v. Bhajan Lal, (1988) 3 SCC 26.
 Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India through Secretary General, (2017) 9 SCC 766.